Dogs and cats can be very vulnerable in a heatwave. Here we look at 10 ways to help keep them cool and healthy when the temperature rises.
Before we start, just one quick message. If at any point you suspect your pet is suffering or starting to suffer from the signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, contact your vet immediately.
1. Keep them indoors
We all love spending time outdoors with our pets, dogs especially. But dogs can suffer heatstroke in minutes. They can't regulate their temperature as well as us humans can and rely on panting and releasing heat through their nose and paw pads to cool down. Dark coats absorb heat from the sun too, which is a double whammy for super heating your dog in next to no time. Cats are very similar, but will also lick to encourage further sweating. Keeping pets indoors helps you keep them out of direct sunshine.
2. Plenty of water
Keep water bowls topped up at all times with clean water. Add extra water to their food so you know they're hydrating. Dogs often love eating ice cubes so if you're worried your dog isn't drinking as much as you'd like them to, try giving them an ice cube. Just be sure to watch them in case they leave it rather than eating it or you may end up with a small puddle where you didn't want one :)
3. Reduce exercise
Keep dog walks to a minimum and certainly avoid the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest. If you have wooded areas nearby you can walk in, head there for a cooler walk under the canopy. Even if it feels cool indoors, resist encouraging your pet to chase toys. Luckily heatwaves in the UK rarely last more than a week - your dog will soon regain their condition when the hot weather passes and you can resume normal activity. Whilst stuck indoors, you can instead focus on mental stimulation by revisiting their basic training and teaching them new tricks. It may be safer to keep cats that roam the local area a lot indoors too, where you know they have ample water and shade when they need it.
Dogs usually love swimming just as much as us humans love flocking to a poolside when the sun is shining. But before you let your dog swim, be sure you're comfortable with the water quality first. The last thing you want is your dog gulping down loads of stagnant water and then being poorly when they get home. Sickness and diarrhoea in a heatwave is not fun or healthy, and often results in emergency trips to the vet. Similarly, if your dog goes swimming in the sea, be sure to rinse the saltwater off afterwards to prevent irritation of the skin when it dries, and give them fresh water to drink as seawater can also make your dog poorly. Above all else, do not put yourself at risk if your dog gets into difficulties when swimming.
5. Keep them trim in more ways than one
Keeping your pets fur in check helps reduce the amount of heat around their bodies and lets warmth dissipate better. Beyond their regular grooming, keeping their coat clean and free from matts and tangles helps protect their skin and keep them cool. Additionally, pets that are carrying additional weight are more prone to heat exhaustion so keep their activity level down during the heatwave and then work towards shedding the weight afterwards.
6. Cool mats
Pets will naturally try and find the best spot in the home for them at any one time, whether it's to get warm or to cool down. Laminate flooring in a shaded room is often cooler than a carpet, so be sure to let you pet have access to it even if you're in a different room yourself. Cool mats can work too, either in your pet's bed, or just on the floor. If your pet is prone to chewing, put the mat inside a pillowcase and that should prevent them chewing it.
7. Avoid car journeys
Pets die quickly in hot cars. 'Only for a minute' is a minute too long. Leave your pets at home when the sun is baking. If you see a pet in distress in a car, call 999 and ask for the police. They'll tell you what the best course of action is.
8. Ice treats
This is beyond the basic ice cubes we talked about earlier. It's easy to make frozen treats using your pets favourite food. You can use fish or meat juice, and even freeze bits of carrot or apple. Try a few variations out and see which your pet enjoys the most.
No doubt a fan was one of the first things you bought the moment heatwave was mentioned on the weather forecast. But our pets enjoy the benefits of them just the same, so be sure to make sure that as well as cooling yourself, your pet can get in on the cooling action too.
10. Garden sprinklers and misters
Garden sprinklers are great fun for adults and kids, and your dog just might enjoy it too. However, with widespread hosepipe bans likely to be in force during heatwaves, they're not the best use of water at times like this. Instead, opt for a hand held mister. You can pick them up in most discount or pound stores - giving your dog a quick mist every so often will help to cool them down. Your cat, however, is unlikely to appreciate it :)